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Weekly Update: God’s heavenly angels

30 September 2021

Earlier this week the Jewish people celebrated Simchat Torah, which literally means “rejoicing with the Torah”. This is celebrated every year on the first day after the end of the feast of Sukkot. As we saw last week, one aspect of Sukkot is that it points to Israel’s relationship with the nations, looking forward to the time when the Kingdom is established, and all nations will go up to Jerusalem year by year (Zechariah 14). The Temple is intended as “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56).

Simchat Torah marks the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings (the readings of the law), and the beginning of the new one. The Torah scrolls are taken from the ark, there is much dancing and singing.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 9 that it is Israel – the Jewish people – who received the covenants, the law, the temple worship and the promises of God. “Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” We, gentiles, have been “grafted in” to these covenants, the law, the promises etc. (Romans 11). God has never withdrawn these gifts from Israel.

And in all of God’s dealings with Israel, He is supported and surrounded by a host of heavenly angels. The Old Testament is full of references to angels. For example, Jacob saw in a dream God’s angels ascending and descending to heaven (Genesis 28). Apparently the angels were even involved in the giving of the law. Stephen said that the Jews “received the law by the disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53) and Paul said that the law “was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (Gal. 3:19).

So it is remarkable that, in the same week as the giving of the law is celebrated in the festival of Simchat Torah, many Christians this week celebrated the day of St. Michael and All Angels – a day traditionally observed in some church denominations (especially Anglican and Roman Catholic), going back to the church fathers, in recognition of the existence of the heavenly host of angels, and their beautiful ministry to “the heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1). It is also a moment to recall that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

The archangel Michael is a very important figure in the Bible, who has a special connection with Israel. In the book of Daniel, he is revealed as “the great prince of your people” (ie. Israel) who will “arise” at the end of days to protect the Jewish people (see Daniel 10 and 12). In Revelation 12, it is said that there will be a “war in heaven”, and Michael and his angels will fight against Satan and his angels, and overcome them.

We can be thankful that God’s angelic hosts are protecting Israel and the Jewish people – even today, as they return home to the land.

The church needs to realize that God is faithful to His law and the promises He has given to Israel, and that we are all part of a battle in the heavenly realms between God and His angels against the powers and principalities who seek to destroy God’s purposes. Israel and the church should be united, not divided.

The Editorial team

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Scripture for the week

Daniel 12:1-4

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”